Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fairies :-)

Here are the fairies and the fairy house that I made the girls for Christmas! I'm so excited - I can hardly wait! All Zoe talks about is fairy this and fairy that. She even tried to make some fairies herself with tissue paper. Then, when I was using the computer one day, I overheard her talking to herself, saying, "I hope Santa gets me fairies and a fairy house for Christmas." I don't think she said it for my benefit because she acted like she didn't know I was in the room, and usually she would shoot me a grin if she was being coy.

Anyway, I made the fairies and the house with felt, as you can see. It was not expensive at all to buy the materials, but it did take many hours to make. My awesome husband even took both girls to Whole Foods in Boulder today to get our entire Christmas dinner list, while I stayed home to finish the fairy house. It was cute because he had to call me half a dozen times to ask me questions about different items :-)

The fairy house has a ribbon for a handle so it can be carried or hang on a door knob. Of course it can also be placed on the floor, windowsill, couch, table, you name it. Both the fairies and the house are hand sewn. Even the wings, which are silk flower petals, are sewn on. The only glue I used was to attach the head. Next time I may drill a hole through the wood so I can attach it with yarn, and make yarn hair as well. Or I may give them a hat to cover the hole where it is attached. I haven't decided yet.

And now I'm off to hide my laptop until Christmas, so Zoe doesn't see this post :-) (I will use it after they go to bed however.)
Cheers, Kelly

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mint Swirl Brownies, Lights & Crafts

I know I'm obsessed with these brownies, but I couldn't resist sharing one more with you! I'm still doing the mint, but this time I also added some Vanilla Pudding, then I gave it a swirl with a tooth pick for a pretty effect. It tasted amazing too :-) Just add 5 minutes to the bake time if you try this.

Plus 1 and 1/2 teaspoon of mint extract.
(They are even better cold after after being in the fridge!)

Note: I used alchohol-free extract because it was the only spearmint I could find, and I don't care for peppermint. If you use one that is not alchohol-free, you probably wont need 1 and 1/2 teaspoons. I'd start with 1/2 tsp and taste to see.

Some of the lights in Longmont:

A time honored tradition in our house is watching A Christmas Story on Christmas Day... Notice the lamp at this house above... LOL Where did they find it?

Zoe dipped pine cones in white paint to create snow.

And we hung them on the tree with our Scandinavian designed dolls. They are part of relief work - I did not make these myself.

A baby blankie I knit for a very good friend.

Zoe taking a picture of her new hairdo today. Love the missing teeth!

Friday, December 12, 2008

some good moments

It was a very hard day for Ashley. Her behavior regressed more than once. I wonder why. Why those old behaviors reared their ugly heads. Her routine was the same. Her diet the same. Maybe when I'm not trying to figure it out it will just come to me. That's usually how it is. It reminds me though, of how far we've come, and how thankful I am that days like this are few are farther between. We did have some good moments though:

Ashley, snug and happy in her towel.

We decorated and photographed this cake for Andrew's client holiday card. It was so much fun! We even added icing to the wheelbarrow and shovel :-) The gnomes, mushrooms and deer came from Bake it Pretty dot com.

Yesterday we had some homeschool friends over. I thought the moms would drink tea in the kitchen while the kids independently put together these foam gingerbread houses at the table. As soon as we took them out of the box we saw that, at least the framework of the gingerbread houses, would require the moms to assemble. The tea sat on the counter, getting cold, as we laughed at the difficulty of putting the structures together. We watched as they continually fell apart, until, some time later, we realized a glue gun was in order, and sent the kids up to play in the girls room. My friend and I quickly had the houses secure with the glue gun as the kids played together so nicely upstairs. It was great spending time with them. We are so excited they are moving here :-)

Today, after Zoe and I finished decorating our foam gingerbread house, she asked me if I would cut a hole in the back so she could play dollhouse with it. I thought this was genius :-) Then she brought down some of her wooden dollhouse furniture to put inside, and asked me to cut her a "tiny gingerbread woman" to play with inside the house. So cute!

The whole reason we went the foam route was, of course, to avoid wheat. However, I found a recipe for a gluten-free gingerbread house today that I really want to try. It comes from:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Raw Vanilla Cookies & Stars

When I made up the crust for the pecan pie, I thought the dough would make a perfect Christmas cookie, like a sugar cookie (I emphasize the word like here, as there is no refined sugar in these :-)). Since it's already an almost raw recipe, all that needs to be done is to substitute coconut oil for ghee, and dehydrate. I did not make my cookies truly raw because I wanted a slightly buttery taste, so I kept the ghee. But you could use virgin coconut oil instead for a raw cookie, if you prefer. I also opted for a kind of fat cookie, and the inside never fully dried out. I suppose I could have dehydrated them another day, but we all really like the chewy inside. Next time I'm going to try pressing them thinly to get a crunchy cookie for a change.

The second best thing to eating these yummy cookies, is the smell they create in your house for 24 hours while they are dehydrating. It's a cookie dough in the oven kind of smell, only it lasts much longer than baking cookies, and these little guys are packed with nutrition. Yesterday, the girls and I were so enticed by the smell that we couldn't resist taking out one or two to eat. Okay, maybe three or four :-) It was such a laid back kind of Monday. We were so pooped from our busy weekend that Zoe stayed in her pajamas all day. All we did was read, use the computer, and make pipe cleaner stars, which we hung in front of the kitchen window for a cheerful sparkle.

Christmas Cookies:
Soak 2 cups of cashews for about 8 hours.
Rinse well in a bowl of fresh water and strain.
Repeat about 3 times.
Add the cashews to the food processor with:
2 tbs ghee or use virgin coconut oil for raw cookies
2 tbs honey
1 tbs xylitol
2 tsp vanilla
Puree. Scrape the sides, then add:
1 cup shredded coconut
Puree. Roll and press into shape. Dehydrate for 24 hours at 130 to 140 degrees.

Note: The queen of all dehydrators is the Excalibur 9 Tray Dehydrator . If this is out of the question for you, there is a one called Nesco American Harvest that gets 4.5 out of 5 stars, based on 104 reviews, and it is the one that I myself use.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

First snow & Pecan Pie (gluten-free, sugar-free)

Yay! Our first good snow! We were so excited! I could hardly believe it was only 18 degrees outside, because it wasn't painfully cold. We walked around and played for a really long time, and only went inside because Ashley wouldn't stop eating snow (she isn't picky about the color of the snow she puts in her mouth :-)). Inside we made hot chocolate with almond milk and created a huge pile of snow suits, coats and gloves by the door.

I was so excited when I found this wooden Advent calendar a few years ago on clearance at TJMax. It needed some minor repairs, and I repainted the framework and sides green. Andrew is fond of using berry xylitol mints and Kinder toys from when we were in Europe inside the boxes. On top is a gnome or nisse, as we like to say, which Andrew's mom painted a long time ago, and was nice enough to give us.

And here is the pecan pie that I promised you. It is free of refined sugar, gluten and casein. I am so thrilled with how well it came out. Andrew usually doesn't like anything with ghee, but this he loved. The pie filling is so sweet and gooey, no one would ever believe there was no corn syrup or gluten for thickener! The crust was especially exciting though, since I already knew how I was going to make the filling (similar to the cherry almond pie), but I didn't plan the crust recipe till the last minute. It came out so light, flakey and delicious! I can't wait to make it again for Christmas! Cheers!

Pecan Pie (gluten-free, sugar-free):

Soak 1 cup of cashews for about 8 hours.
Rinse well in a bowl of fresh water and strain.
Repeat about 3 times.
Add the cashews to the food processor with:
1 tbs ghee
1 tbs honey
1/2 tbs xylitol
1 tsp vanilla
Puree. Scrape the sides, then add:
1/2 cup shredded coconut
Puree to form a ball. Press into ungreased pie dish.

7 dates, pits removed
7 prunes
Covered with 1 and 1/4 cups of water, and soaked for about 8 hours.

Add the fruit and it's soaking water to the food processor with:
1 tbs xylitol
1 tbs ghee
1/2 tbs vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
Add 1 and 1/2 cups roughly chopped pecans, lightly toasted if you like, to the filling.
Pour the filling into the pie crust.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 and bake for another 10 minutes.

Chill in the fridge a few hours before serving.
Top with my Vanilla Pudding or a scoop of dairy-free vanilla ice cream if you like.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Scandinavian Christmas

Our move to Colorado last fall put us at quite a distance from our East Coast family. Celebrating holidays on our own has compelled us to start our own traditions. I am half Danish, so we have been investigating the Christmas customs of Scandinavia. Andrew isn't at all Scandinavian, but he is just as interested. He says this is because, "There isn't any place more Christmassy than Scandinavia!"

One enchanting Danish tradition is the story of the Jul nisser or Christmas spirits. They are small like elves, bearded with a red cap like Santa, but unlike these better known American characters a nisse is full of mischief. If you do not leave them their customary bowl of Christmas Eve rice pudding they can be trouble! Nisser (pronounced "niss-uh") are also found in Norway. In Finland these are known as the tonttuja, and in Sweden they are the tomtar.

When Andy's parents were here, his mom brought these supplies for she and the girls to make their own nisser. She is amazing with craft projects, and when she heard about our Scandinavian Christmas, which we began last year, she jumped right in. After seeing nisser just like these in a Pottery Barn catalog for 20 dollars a piece, she collected supplies to make our own.

Then she and Zoe sat at the kitchen island and glued the felt to plastic cups. They used small close pins to hold the felt while it dried. Next they glued on the wool for a beard, which came from Andy's aunt's farm in Virginia. After the wool, they attached the hats, and finally the nose and black felt feet. Aren't they cute?! This morning we made one more and set them up on our shelf, beside the sticks we collected.

We have also purchased a few books which are already becoming our family tradition to read in December. They are written by Astrid Lindgren, who you may know from the book, Pippy Longstocking. These books are from 1961 and 1963, and they are so full of charm. One book prominently features the nisse, and is titled, The Tomten . The other book is more of a peak into Christmas in Scandinavia, through the eyes of the children in Noisy Village. It is called Christmas in Noisy Village . Both books contain delightful illustrations.

If you fall in love with these books as we have, you may also consider The Children of Noisy Village , and Happy Times in Noisy Village . They are wonderful children's novels, suited for any time of year. The writing style reminds me of Eloise, if you are familiar with those books, which I grew up reading with my mom. The girls just love to curl up on the couch while we read these to them in the evening after dinner.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Playgrounds Cafe & Cherry Almond Pie

So I was all excited to tell you how great this place is, where we went today, and how you local readers should go there, when I saw a sign which said they are closing their doors on December 20. So very sad. It is such a great place! A healthy cafe and coffee shop, offering organic and gluten-free food, with a huge bonus - An indoor kids play area that looks Waldorf-inspired! Anyway, they were much loved and will be very missed indeed :-( What indoor place do you love when it's cold outside?

On a much more cheerful note I think you're going to love my latest pie, inspired by the one I made for the Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger. That caramel looking texture, somewhat like a pecan pie (yes, pecan pie is next on my list, by the way!) is not corn syrup or any other kind of refined sugar, but soaked dried fruit. And oh is it heavenly! Cheers!

Cherry Almond Pie:

Add to bowl:
7 dates, pits removed
7 prunes
Cover with 1 and 1/4 cups of water, and soak over night.

In the morning, add to two separate bowls:
1 cup dried red sour cherries (my absolute favorite, though another variety would work too)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
Cover each with water and soak for 1 hour.

Rinse the almonds in fresh water and strain.
Strain the cherries.
Set the oven to 400 degrees.

Add the dates, prunes, and their soaking water to the blender and puree.
Pour the liquids into a bowl and add:
10 drops of vanilla creme liquid stevia
1 tbs coconut flour, sifted
Mix well.
Add the cherries and almonds. Stir.
Pour into pie dish, well greased with coconut oil, and dusted with any gluten-free flour. I used brown rice flour.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes. You want the natural sugars in the fruit to caramelize some, but not to burn.

Chill in the fridge a few hours before serving.
Top with my Vanilla Pudding and garnish with a fresh cherry.